breaking news

Roost to close Kettering location this fall

Archdeacon: ‘X-factor’ Simmons propels Raiders into Horizon title game

It’s time for a name change.

The team calls her Junior.

“My freshman year there was another Symone on the team – Symone Denham – and she was older than me,” Symone Simmons said. “We were always getting confused of who they were talking to when they said ‘Symone,’ so they started calling me Junior.”

But the way she lifted her Wright State team onto her back in the fourth quarter against IUPUI on Monday afternoon and carried it into Tuesday’s championship game of the Horizon League Tournament, it’s time for a new moniker.

She’s no subordinate, no second fiddle, no Mini-Me.

She is no longer a Junior.

“She’s a monster!” Wright State teammate Chelsea Welch gushed after the Raiders had come from behind to topple IUPUI, 60-52, at Little Caesars Arena.

That puts WSU into a noon matchup with top-seeded Green Bay for the title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. It’s the third time in five years the Raiders have made it to the league’s championship game.

The Raiders finally were able to catch up to IUPUI – which had led almost all of the first 35 minutes of the game (there were two early ties) – primarily because of Simmons’ effort in the fourth quarter.

WSU trailed 40-34 after three quarters, but then Simmons — talking to herself the whole way – became a one-woman wrecking crew.

“All game long I talk to my myself to try to keep myself motivated,” she said. “And right then I was just saying, ‘OK, stay down on defense and rebound.’”

She scored nine points in the first five minutes of the quarter, the last basket a lay-up with 5:07 left that gave WSU its first lead of the game, 50-49. The Raiders never trailed after that,

Simmons also got five rebounds in the fourth quarter and that gave her a double double – 12 points and 10 boards.

“She’s a monster on the boards, it’s ridiculous,” said Welch, the Horizon League Player of the Year, who finished with 17 points. “She came out and hit some clutch shots and got some much-needed rebounds at the perfect time. She definitely gave us energy.”

When the game ended, IUPUI coach Austin Parkinson sought out Simmons in the handshake line so he could personally congratulate her.

“He just told me, ‘Way to play,’” she said. “And he told me, ‘I like how you stepped up today.’”

Parkinson praised the Raiders 5-foot-10 junior forward in his post-game press conference, as well:

“That was a tremendous effort from her. When you start this (semifinal) game and in the one tomorrow, if you’re going to win that type of game, your best players have to act like your best players.

“But you also need someone (else) to step up.

“She hasn’t shot it particularly well over the course of the year so our game plan was to help off of her. (Slack off her to concentrate on others.) And she stepped up with confidence several times.

“She took good shots and she also found her strength, which was offensive rebounding and driving to the basket.

“Obviously we’re disappointed today, but you like to see kids that step up in a big moment. You’ve got to give her a lot of credit.”

WSU coach Katrina Merriweather agreed with Parkinson’s game plan:

“Let’s be honest. Percentage-wise you go guard Mackenzie Taylor and you go guard Emily Vogelpohl. Like Chelsea mentioned, (Symone) has struggled from time to time, but what she does the majority of the time is play really, really hard and that’s what we saw today.”

Simmons – who leads the team in rebounds and blocked shots – is the starter who is shooting the lowest percentage from the floor (35.7) and especially the three-point line (25.7)

“I like it when people underestimate me,” she said. “I like to prove myself and let my game speak for myself.”

In her first three years at WSU, she’s had some games that spoke volumes.

She had 20 points against Central Michigan in the WNIT last year. She had 18 rebounds against Cleveland State last season and 17 this season. Against Oakland this season she had 10 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists.

Monday’s effort though came on a more important stage. It’s gotten the Raiders to within 40 minutes of an NCAA tournament bid. Something they’ve gotten only once before in program history.

“Today my adrenaline was pumping,” she said. “I was excited. I was feeling it to be honest.”

She began her fourth quarter barrage with a lay-up, then moved back and hit a jumper and then went deeper and hit a three. Finally came the lay-up that put WSU in the lead for good.

“Anytime someone asks me who’s a difference in the game, it’s always Symone Simmons,” said Merriweather.

“She is our X factor.”

She is no longer just Junior.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

2018 Prep Football Season Preview: Talawanda Braves
2018 Prep Football Season Preview: Talawanda Braves

It’s time for Talawanda High School’s football team to start winning again. That’s the view of seventh-year coach J.D. Vonderheide, who’s endured a 3-27 record over the last three seasons and will head into battle with a highly regarded junior class in 2018. “We’re primed and ready to see what we’re made of...
Urban Meyer: A look at his career at Ohio State
Urban Meyer: A look at his career at Ohio State

Urban Meyer has been one of the most successful coaches in college football history, but a late-summer scandal threatens to stain his reputation.  Here is a look back at the Ohio native’s time at Ohio State.  1. Meyer’s first college job was at Ohio State. He served as a graduate assistant for Earle Bruce in 1986 and ’87...
Bengals rookie to get ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment vs. America’s team
Bengals rookie to get ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment vs. America’s team

Jessie Bates said his heart was racing as he stepped onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium last week for the Cincinnati Bengals’ preseason opener and his first introduction to playing in the NFL. The rookie safety is hoping the butterflies are gone but walking into the 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium in Dallas will feel a lot different than playing...
Defending CCC champ Miami East carries on winning tradition
Defending CCC champ Miami East carries on winning tradition

Miami East wasn’t always a small-school football power. Had East not snapped a long losing streak when Max Current took over as head coach, those seniors would never have won a high school game. That was 20 years ago. Now, East might as well be circled in red on opposing schedules. “It’s been awesome,” said Current, who has...
Xenia grad Trent Cole going into Cincinnati Bearcats Hall of Fame
Xenia grad Trent Cole going into Cincinnati Bearcats Hall of Fame

Trent Cole, a Xenia High School standout who spent 12 seasons in the NFL, is going to be inducted into the University of Cincinnati’s athletics hall of fame.  Cole was a two-time All-Conference USA defensive end for the Bearcats in the early 2000s.  He ranked fifth in the nation with 1.79 tackles-for-loss per game as a senior in 2004...
More Stories